campus news and events

Eternal Gratitude: The Coffin Family Inducted into Legends Society

On October 8, honorary life trustee and former chairman of the Board of Trustees David L. Coffin Sr., P'75, '76, trustee Deborah L. Coffin '76 and The Coffin Family were inducted into the Colby-Sawyer Legends Society, which recognizes those who support the college with lifetime philanthropic gifts of $1 million or more.

In 1962, David was 37 and the seventh-generation leader of a family business. Originally known for making tea bags, the Dexter Corporation was transformed under David's leadership into a worldwide, diversified conglomerate. He was also a brand-new Colby-Sawyer trustee.

In his 16 years as a trustee, David led fundraising campaigns, helped the college transition from a junior college to a four-year college, completed the college's first campus master plan, introduced important new corporate and individual partnerships, hosted many college events, and served as chair for four years. During his tenure, David's three children, David Jr., Robert and Deborah, were growing up. David Jr., who passed away in 1996, attended Colby-Sawyer for one year, and Deb graduated in 1976.

In 1986 David received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from the college, and in 1991 the David L. Coffin Field House was named in the Dan and Kathleen Hogan Sports Center to recognize David's generosity. In 2000 he received the college's highest honor, the Susan Colgate Cleveland Medal for Distinguished Service.

“He gave generously of his time and his treasure to Colby-Sawyer,” President Thomas C. Galligan Jr. said at the induction ceremony. “David supported special building projects through the decades, and when he felt the physical campus was in good shape, he directed his philanthropy toward the endowment.”

David said he lived by one rule: “If you take from society, you owe it to yourself and to your community to give back.” Since David's death in 2012, his daughter, Deborah Lee Coffin, has proven that she, too, subscribes to this rule.

Deb is a lifelong learner, teacher – including several years as an adjunct professor at Colby-Sawyer – entrepreneur, artisan and mental health counselor. Like her father, she is also a philanthropic and volunteer leader at Colby-Sawyer. This fall, she began her own tenure on the Board of Trustees.

One of Deb's early and important gifts was made to help establish a merit award for senior business students to honor the memory of her esteemed professor, Dr. Marnie Kurtz. Since creating that fund with four others who also felt indebted to Dr. Kurtz, Deb has been a loyal Colby-Sawyer Fund donor and a special advocate for sustainability at the college. In 2013, she made an important gift that will celebrate the ceramics work her late brother David so loved and support the Fine and Performing Arts Center the college plans to build.

“We are enormously grateful to you, Deb,” said President Galligan. “Thank you for allowing us to celebrate your family's generosity and leadership.”

- Beth Cahill, Vice President for Advancement

Colby-Sawyer College is a comprehensive college that integrates the liberal arts and sciences with professional preparation. Founded in 1837, Colby-Sawyer is located in the scenic Lake Sunapee Region of central New Hampshire. Learn more about the college's vibrant teaching and learning community at

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